LAHORE: In a major setback to PML-N chief Shahbaz Sharif, over 20 elected party members of the Punjab Assembly skipped a meeting called by him to discuss the future strategy about the government formation in Pakistan's most populous province, a media report said today.
As the meeting had been called by Shahbaz, all the PML-N members elected from Punjab were told to ensure their presence, The News reported.
However, only 106 out of 129 PML-N MPAs-elect attended the meeting, the paper said, citing sources.
At least 23 elected PML-N members skipped the meeting despite strict directives from party president Sharif, the paper said. The majority of the absent members excused themselves on the pretext of health issues and/or unavoidable engagement, it said, quoting sources.
Their absence was not taken well by the party president, who is striving to get the required numbers to form the Punjab government, for which the PML-N has been approaching the independents and smaller parties.
"These independents and the probable alliance options for the PML-N had asked to first ensure that the party had a firm hold on all of its own 129 members who won the election.
That's why this meeting was being considered by many as an exercise to exhibit that strength," the paper said.
The meeting, chaired by Shahbaz, was scheduled to start at 6:00 pm; however, it began over an hour late.
During the meeting, a visibly upset Sharif said the real character of a person was tested not at the time of convenience but when one had to stand against the tide.
Those attending the meeting pledged their unconditional support to Sharif in the testing times the party is going through.
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Notable PML-N MPAs in the waiting who did not attend the meeting included Khawaja Saad Rafique, Khawaja Imran Nazir and Khawaja Salman Rafique, who held key ministries in the previous PML-N government.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which ruled the province of over 100 million population for the last two terms from 2008-2018, has won 129 seats while Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf bagged 123 seats and its ally PML-Q got seven.
As many as 29 seats have gone to independent candidates.
In the 297-member House, 149 seats are required to form the government.
The PTI claimed that it has support of 180 MPAs-elect in Punjab and the party will form the government in the province.